Keyword Research: How it Differs Between SEO and PPC

Staff Writer: Carolyn Johnson

Date: 9.10.2012

What every Los Angeles SEO company should keep in mind when doing research on keywords is that the research process and criteria for keywords is actually very different between SEO and PPC.

There are a few factors that differentiate the two: First, the goals of SEO and PPC respectively are different. How the keywords are used and in what medium will also differ. Lastly, your margin of error between the two differs as well, in the case that your keyword research proves to be faulty and you get penalized for your blunders. We will cover all three of these areas here.

First, there are differences are in the goals both Los Angeles search engine optimization and PPC.

In the case of SEO Los Angeles, your immediate concern isn’t “keywords = money,” although that becomes the case eventually. With SEO, you need to figure out the world of keyword usage, and how people search for what they need in your client’s particular niche. You also need to figure out a user’s intent from their use of certain keywords, as well as what they mean in the larger context of the marketplace. In a nutshell, your mission with SEO keyword research is to figure out how your client’s niche market will be searching and how your keywords can target them.

For PPC, keyword research is a whole different arena. We’re talking a cost-per-click investment with PPC, so here, “keywords = money.” You bid on competing keywords in this case. These are the kinds of keywords that are difficult to rank in SEO.

Next, both SEO and PPC keywords differ in how they end up being used.

With PPC, keywords will generally be used in purchase-friendly environments, such as ad groups, ad copy and landing pages. The keywords between these three environments should be tightly correlated to get the most out of your conversion rates.

SEO is a slightly different story. SEO serves as a foundation for your optimized website, integrating itself not directly with the more “sales-y” parts of your website, but with more organic features such has content, meta tags and title tags. Similar to PPC keywords, you’ll want to make sure your SEO keywords have a tight correlation between them on every page.

Lastly, the margin for error also serves as a key difference between SEO and PPC keyword research.

In terms of margin of error, you can get away with a lot in SEO. Keywords don’t cost anything to use, which means you can risk using more highly competitive keywords without losing out too much. If you overestimate or underestimate the effectiveness of certain keywords and your rankings change, you can always adjust your SEO and try it again.

On the other hand, PPC’s margin for error is small, as every move you make with your keyword search will cost you money. You’ll need to be careful in which keywords you bid on, while also keeping in mind the cost per click versus the quality score.

It’s clear that just because certain keywords work brilliantly in one arena, doesn’t mean they’ll prove successful in another. SEO and PPC keyword searches differ because they exist on different planes, so be sure to keep this in mind on your next quest for keywords.

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